West Virginians who live near streams polluted by coal mining are more likely to die of cancer, according to a first-of-its kind study published by researchers at West Virginia University and Virginia Tech.
The study provides the first peer-reviewed look at the relationship between the biological health of Appalachian streams and public health of coalfield residents.
See: Ken Ward Jr. "Breaking news: EPA vetoes Spruce Mine permit." Coal Tattoo. Jan. 13, 2011.
Hitt, Nathaniel P., and Michael Hendryx. “Ecological Integrity of Streams Related to Human Cancer Mortality Rates.” EcoHealth 7, no. 1 (March 2010): 91-104.
...The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has vetoed the largest single mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history.
The move is part of an Obama administration crackdown aimed at reducing the effects of mountaintop removal coal-mining on the environment and on coalfield communities in Appalachian — impacts that scientists are increasingly finding to be pervasive and irreversible.
The final EPA decision document is available here. EPA has also now posted some appendices to that document, including a response to comments.
EPA officials this morning were alerting West Virginia’s congressional delegation to their action, and undoubtedly preparing for a huge backlash from the mining industry and its friends among coalfield political leaders.
Comment (65 comments posted as of 1/14/11 1:04 P.M.) posted by rhmooney3. Jan. 13, 2011 at 1:33 P.M.
...I believe the mining industry, the entire business community and all the states want this to move through the federal courts to the U.S. Supreme Court...
P.S. As a result of this EPA action, mining companies have no choice than to play ball with the EPA — in making this decison the EPA has made a lot of other decisions yet to come.
Today’s EPA decision is not just fundamentally wrong, it is an unprecedented act by the federal government that will cost our state and our nation even more jobs during the worst recession in this country’s history.
While the EPA decision hurts West Virginia today, it has negative ramifications for every state in our nation, and I strongly urge every Senator and every Member of Congress to voice their opposition.
EPA Press Release:
Jalil Isa (News Media Only)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2011
EPA Halts Disposal of Mining Waste to Appalachian Waters at Proposed Spruce Mine: Agency cites irreversible damage to clean water, environment in the region.
WASHINGTON – After extensive scientific study, a major public hearing in West Virginia and review of more than 50,000 public comments, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it will use its authority under the Clean Water Act to halt the proposed disposal of mining waste in streams at the Mingo-Logan Coal Company’s Spruce No. 1 coal mine.
Background on Clean Water Act Section 404(c)
Clean Water Act Section 404(c) authorizes EPA to restrict or prohibit placing dredged or fill material in streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands and other waters if the agency determines that the activities would result in “unacceptable adverse effects” to the environment, water quality, or water supplies. This authority applies to proposed projects as well as projects previously permitted under the Clean Water Act although EPA is not considering such action for other previously permitted projects.
With today’s (Jan. 13, 2011) action, EPA has exercised its Section 404(c) authority only 13 times in its history of the CWA. EPA recognizes the importance of ensuring that its Section 404(c) actions are taken only where environmental impacts are truly unacceptable and will use this authority only where warranted by science and the law.
Ken Ward Jr. says:
Arch Coal hasn’t responded to my query yet, but the New York Times has these comments from a company spokeswoman:
John Broder. Jan. 13, 2011. NYT. "Agency Revokes Permit for Major Coal Mining Project".
“We remain shocked and dismayed at E.P.A.’s continued onslaught with respect to this validly issued permit,” said Kim Link, the company’s spokeswoman. “Absent court intervention, E.P.A.’s final determination to veto the Spruce permit blocks an additional $250 million investment and 250 well-paying American jobs.”
“Furthermore, we believe this decision will have a chilling effect on future U.S. investment,” she added, “because every business possessing or requiring a permit under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act will fear similar overreaching by the E.P.A. It’s a risk many businesses cannot afford to take.”
Ken Ward, Jr. is a staff reporter for the Charleston Gazette, who has been nationally recognized for his writing on the coal mining industry. He is Chair of the Society of Environmental Journalists First Amendment Task Force, founded in 2002 to "to address freedom-of-information, right-to-know, and other news gathering issues of concern to the pursuit of environmental journalism."